First and foremost a devoted father, Joel Harrington, new executive chef of Oak Restaurant and Quill Bar and Lounge, also has a love for his craft. In his cooking, he’s inspired by the whimsical and strives for an accessible culinary environment.
To learn a little more about Harrington's style and background, we recently hit him up for a (virtual) chat.
Dallas Design District (DDD): What’s your favorite thing about Dallas?
Joel Harrington (JH): My favorite thing about Dallas is that it’s where my children live, and they are fortunate enough to have been enrolled in a very good school district during their time here. I also appreciate how receptive the people of Dallas have been to my family and me. They’re very hospitable and go out of their way to be welcoming and friendly.
DDD: What do you love about being in the Design District?
JH: I personally enjoy the Design District because it has a unique and tasteful style all its own. I like the way the warehouse feel has been maintained, without too much radical change to the original look.
DDD: How did you know you wanted to become a chef?
JH: Being a chef kind of came naturally to me. I started working in kitchens as a teenager and it was a good fit for me from the get-go. I became serious about cooking upon graduation from high school when going to art school didn’t work out financially. I moved to Burlington, Vermont, and dove into cooking headfirst — I went all in.
DDD: What has been the most rewarding moment in your career?
JH: I can’t really say one moment is the most rewarding, but I have taken much pride in successfully opening places and being involved with places that have won awards and/or received great reviews. I also take pride in having mentors dine with me and approve of what they experience.
DDD: Who has influenced you most?
JH: I have many influences and have molded my style based on what I’ve learned from my former chefs. My children have also been an influence, as my career path, for the most part, has been based on their well-being and what makes sense for their security.
DDD: Where is your favorite place to travel for inspiration?
JH: I like to travel into past experiences and/or musicians' and artists' work for inspiration. It’s more a frame of mind for me than physically traveling. But I must say that I am most at home in New York. It has always been my favorite.
DDD: What's the most exotic dish you’ve ever eaten?
JH: I’ve eaten a lot of exotics for sure, but one that comes to mind is a meal I shared with my chefs in New York. We added a Fugu (blowfish) supplement to our tasting menu at a Japenese spot, and I literally felt numb from it. I also had the opportunity a couple years back to enjoy a Chinese wedding banquet that featured some amazing items that I was excited to try.
DDD: If you weren't a chef, what would you secretly love to do?
JH: I’ve always loved baseball and would love to be a sportscaster. But if I could do anything, I would be a scratch golfer and a professional horseshoe player.
DDD: What's currently your favorite culinary trend?
JH: I’ve always been into supporting local farmers, etc. It’s nice to see local farmers' treasures are finally being appreciated.
DDD: Finish the sentence: Every kitchen should have...
JH: ...a sense of pride, respect and passion throughout.
Though he’s been behind the scenes in the kitchen at both Oak and in planning for Quill, Chef Harrington is now taking on a more prominent role. Visit Quill or Oak, off Oak Lawn Avenue, where new, artisanal surprises await, courtesy of Chef Harrington and his team.